Source: Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons
LAVERDIÈRE (Cauchon, dit Laverdière), CHARLES-HONORÉ, priest, teacher, librarian, and historian; b. 23 Oct. 1826 at Château-Richer (Montmorency County), L.C., son of Charles Cauchon, dit Laverdière, farmer, and of Théotiste Cauchon; d. I1 March 1873 at Quebec.
Charles-Honoré Laverdière entered the Petit Séminaire of Quebec in the autumn of 1840 and proved to be a brilliant student; he notes himself that his name regularly appeared on the annual prize list. In September 1848 he was appointed assistant teacher at the seminary and taught physics until 1850, after which he completed his theological studies and was ordained a priest on 3 Aug. 1851.
After his ordination he was again appointed a teacher at the seminary, possibly through the influence of Thomas-Étienne Hamel*, who was one of the familiars of the superior, Abbé Louis-Jacques Casault*. Indeed, Hamel wrote to Laverdière on 1 Sept. 1851: “Your affair is settled. You remain at the seminary.” From then on Laverdière held no further office as vicar or parish priest. On 8 May 1855, when he asked the superior for membership in the seminary, which he was to receive a month later, he explained that he felt himself called more strongly to a community life than to the discharge of the duties of the ministry. He first taught mathematics, and in 1854 history. Thirteen years later he succeeded Jean-Baptiste-Antoine Ferland* in the chair of history at the Faculty of Arts of the Université Laval.
From 1851 on, while continuing to teach, Laverdière occupied semi-officially the post of deputy to the librarian of the seminary. In 1858 he was appointed librarian of the university; on 13 June 1856, the Congregation of the Index had allowed him to read and keep censured books.
As well as discharging his duties as professor and librarian, Laverdière published several collections of profane and religious canticles, and in the field of history his name is attached as collaborator or editor to works important not because of their quantity but because of their quality. While he was studying at the Petit Séminaire he had taken part in the founding of L’Abeille, a students’ journal to which he contributed until his death. In 1859 he brought out 26 successive instalments of hitherto unpublished documents on the history of Canada. In 1858, he had had a share in the publication of the Relations des Jésuites, which was edited under the direction of Abbé Édouard-Gabriel Plante and Abbé Ferland, by setting up the “table of contents”; Antoine Gérin-Lajoie* wrote to congratulate him, saying that his contribution “admirably completed the entire work.” Furthermore, in 1869 he published his Histoire du Canada, a text which classical colleges were still using at the beginning of the 20th century. “This competent work,” writes Pierre Savard, “which is very accurate in relation to the historical knowledge of the time, has been severely judged from a pedagogical and literary point of view.”
In 1870 the first Canadian edition of the Œuvres de Champlain appeared. This edition, which Laverdière had been shaping and recasting since 1864, was according to Narcisse-Henri-Édouard Faucher* de Saint-Maurice a “masterpiece of Canadian typography”; moreover, it was one of the historical works of the period that attracted most attention. Its scientific value is still acknowledged today, despite reservations expressed by the Jesuits, whom Laverdière accused, wrongly according to Lucien Campeau, of having falsified those writings of Samuel de Champlain* that were first published in 1632. Finally, in 1871, in collaboration with Abbé Henri-Raymond Casgrain*, Laverdière edited the Journal des Jésuites.
His career ended abruptly in 1873, in a place predestined by his veneration for the published word: on 10 March he was stricken with an attack of apoplexy in a printing house at Quebec when he was giving directions for a new publication. He died the next day, intestate. His creditors had difficulty in obtaining a settlement: to meet their credit of $1,640 there was only the sum of $503.
This man “of medium height, with keen black eyes, tanned complexion and square shoulders,” was a tireless worker to whom his edition of the Œuvres de Champlain, his other historical publications, and an entire life devoted to the cause of the printed book bear eloquent testimony. Laverdière strove for scientific rigour; he would check the slightest details to make sure that the facts were exact. His works, like those of Louis-Philippe Turcotte, Benjamin Sulte*, Narcisse-Eutrope Dionne*, and Cyprien Tanguay*, marked the revival of an interest in history that characterized the years 1860–80.
ASQ, Carton Laverdière; mss, 26, 175; mss, 626; mss, 627; mss, 676, 38, 573–74; Polygraphie, V, 57; Polygraphie, XIII, 63, 79, 90; Polygraphie, XX, 8; Séminaire, IX, 34; Séminaire, CXI, 22, 72. L’Opinion publique (Montréal), 27 mars 1873. Le Jeune, Dictionnaire, II, 116. Provost, Le séminaire de Québec: documents et biographies, 476. Lucien Campeau, “Les Jésuites ont-ils retouché les écrits de Champlain ?” RHAF, V (1951–52), 344–61. Auguste Gosselin, “Le vrai monument de Champlain: ses oeuvres éditées par Laverdière,” RSCT, 3rd ser., II (1908), sect.i, 3–23. Pierre Savard, “Les débuts de l’enseignement de l’histoire et de la géographie au Petit Séminaire de Québec (1765–1880),” RHAF, XVI (1962–63), 201.